Mets Game 46: Rockies
Rockies 6 Mets 5
It took 13 innings, but the Mets finally lost their fifth straight game. Sadly, I think I was not alone in waiting for the loss to occur … the Mets just didn’t seem to show any reason to believe otherwise.
Aaron Heilman won the job of most likely to be Willie Randolph’s chauffeur when the manager is axed upon his return to New York, as he was the unfortunate soul to give up the winning run in the unlucky 13th frame. As if the guy needed any more negativity.
But it wasn’t really Aaron’s fault the Mets lost. Rather, the blame should be pinned on the closer. Billy Wagner finally gave up an earned run — and the timing couldn’t have been worse. After retiring Clint Barmes on the first pitch of the ninth inning, Wags threw a hard fastball at the knees on the inside part of the plate that Matt Holliday re-directed into the seats. You can’t blame Billy, as it was a pretty good pitch. But then, that’s how things are going for the Mets lately.
Garrett Atkins — who is batting .500 against lefties this year — singled, and Wags had Todd Helton struck out on a 2-2 pitch, but the umpire blinked and called it ball three. Wagner then fed him a nasty up and in fastball that Helton miraculously got the barrel on, sending the ball to the outfield and putting runners on first and third (again, that’s the way things are going). With the infield in, Ryan Spilborgs ripped a ball to Jose Reyes, who looked the runner on third back and went to second for out number two. Scott Podsednik then worked the count full before popping up to Reyes to end the inning.
Apparently, the Mets only hit homeruns back-to-back now. Again Carlos Delgado was part of a double-dinger display, hitting a fly ball into the thin air that a 20-MPH wind carried over the fence. Delgado must have whispered “get it up in the air” to next batter Fernando Tatis, because Tatis followed with a pop up to center that just kept carrying, and carrying, and carrying, until it finally dropped just beyond the centerfield fence. The wind-aided blasts put the Mets ahead 4-2 in the sixth, but the lead did not last — the Rockies came back to tie the game in the bottom of the frame.
However, in the seventh, the Mets played some small ball. Endy Chavez began the inning by ripping the ball past drawn-in third baseman Garrett Atkins for a single. Damion Easley, pinch hitting for Joe Smith, executed a beautiful hit and run to move Endy to third. Chavez scored one pitch later on a fly ball by Jose Reyes to put the Mets ahead 5-4.
Oliver Perez was not great, and did not have his best stuff. At some points, it looked like he was holding back, or aiming the ball. At other points, he was on his own agenda, pitching on Planet Perez, dropping down or over-rotating a la Luis Tiant. Still, he found a way to eke through five innings allowing only two runs despite seven walks. His luck finally ran out in the sixth, when he gave up a cheap infield hit and a walk and was removed from the game (both runners eventually scored). The final line: 5 IP, 6 H, 8 BB, 2 K, 4 ER. Allowing 14 baserunners in five innings, it’s a minor miracle only four runs crossed the plate.
Jose Reyes led off the 10th with a single stretched into a double, then was picked off by Brian Fuentes. I watched the replay of the pickoff in slo-mo about 20 times, and I can’t figure out why 1) the umpires didn’t call a balk; 2) Willie Randolph didn’t run out and argue it was a balk; and 3) the Mets announcers didn’t even consider the fact it might have been a balk. Fuentes lifted his leg, then dropped it straight down, then turned and stepped to second base. I’ll quote rule 8.05 of MLB Rules:
If there is a runner, or runners, it is a balk when —
(a) The pitcher, while touching his plate, makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch and fails to make such delivery;
Rule 8.05(c) Comment: Requires the pitcher, while touching his plate, to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base. If a pitcher turns or spins off of his free foot without actually stepping or if he turns his body and throws before stepping, it is a balk. ….
A pitcher is to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base but does not require him to throw (except to first base only) because he steps.
Watching the replay, Fuentes did not step anywhere, but lifted his foot and brought it back down — effectively, making a motion toward home plate. That is a blatant deceit of the runner. Either I’m completely off base or everyone else was sleeping on that play. Last I checked, a pitcher can’t start his motion, stop it, then throw to a base … the rules dictate that you must step directly to the base. You can’t just stop, then decide to step and throw. Keith? Gary? Lee Mazzilli? Did ANYONE see the balk? Are you kidding me? Nah, it’s a lot easier to simply blame Reyes and leave it at that. On the record, I completely disagree with Maz’s assessment that Reyes was either not paying attention or trying to steal second. Rather, Reyes had a fairly unaggressive lead, and was deceived by Fuentes’ balk. But what do I know, I’m just a dumb blogger.
Not sure why Willie Randolph stuck with Ollie Perez in the sixth, after the Mets went ahead 4-2. It was clear in the fifth that Ollie was struggling mightily, having walked three batters in the inning and thrown a wild pitch. After getting the lead, it made sense to bring in a reliever to start the inning — it was only a matter of time before Perez’s luck ran out. Usually, I’m for lengthening the starter’s outing, but in this case, after getting swept by the Braves, and Willie’s job in jeopardy, Ollie with zero stuff cannot be sent back out there. Now is not the time to be showing confidence in your guy, nor the time to let him “tough it out”. The Mets — and Randolph — were too desperate for a win.
I never thought I’d write this, but … Scott Schoeneweis was spectacular. He threw two innings of hitless relief, holding a one-run lead for Billy Wagner. Oh well.
I think Jose Reyes could have easily stolen on rookie Greg Reynolds in the third — before he even let go of the ball — when it was he on second and and Luis Castillo on first. Reynolds does that idiotic Mike Mussina “lean over” (idiotic because all it does is tire you out and accelerate a herniated disk), and is in no position to make a throw while in the midst of it. If I’m Reyes, I’m bolting the second he starts leaning down. Most likely, the kid freezes and balks, or at best loses his rhythm, forgets where he is, and takes too long to throw to third base. With a decent lead, Reyes has about 25 yards to cover between the bases, and with his speed needs only about three seconds to get to the next one. I’m positive that Reynolds would be unable to stop his lean over, step off the rubber, figure out which base he needs to throw to, and make a good throw within that three-second window.
Fascinating events in the top of the fourth. First, Carlos Delgado hits a chopper to second base and lollygags it to first base. Then, Marlon Anderson follows with a grounder to short, busts it down the line, and ends up pulling his hamstring. There’s something wrong in the natural order of things when a “leader” such as Delgado gets away with not hustling, and the guy who hustles ends up injured.
It would figure that Wagner, the one guy on the team with a sliver of leadership and a hundred pounds’ worth of accountability, would be the goat this evening. Also figures that the only other guy on the team with any life — David Wright — would go 1 for 6, with his only hit a weak blooper.
Go ahead, blame Willie Randolph for this one. But don’t ignore the fact that Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and D-Wright were a combined 2-for-16 in this game. The Mets WILL NOT WIN if the “key three” continue to mess the bed — it doesn’t matter who is managing.
Carlos Delgado hit the ball hard twice, including a wind-aided homer, so I guess that means he has a job for a few more weeks.
The Mets will try for six in a row tomorrow afternoon in a 3:55 pm start on FOX (ugh). I think Claudio Vargas will be pitching against Jeff Francis. Whatever.